The Supreme Court's verdict upholding Parliament's unprecedented decision to expel 11 MPs caught accepting bribes on camera makes both the legislature and its members accountable for their action. In immediate terms, it clears the way for election in constituencies unrepresented for nearly a year. But in the long run, the elected bodies can build upon the verdict for an image makeover.
“The verdict made it clear that corruption or improper behaviour, unbecoming of the position someone holds, would not be tolerated…Parliament's decision to expel its MPs showed that such behaviour was not acceptable even to their own parliamentary colleagues,”' Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said.
The verdict also vindicated the Speaker's stand in the face of the Court notice on the petitioners' plea against their expulsion. Parties have welcomed the verdict. But political scientist CP Bhambri does not believe that upholding expulsion would end the practice of "motivated" questions. "It will not end the trend. Only those who were caught were punished," he said. However, former Lok Sabha secretary general GC Malhotra did not agree with Bhambri.
He said the verdict would improve Parliament's image among people and "inspire other institutions - such as the media, the election commission and the people themselves - to exercise greater vigil against legislators prone to misconduct". By the Speaker's own admission, there are 40 members in the Lok Sabha with criminal cases pending against them. The charges against them range from demolition of Babri Masjid to murder and rape.
A series of developments in 2005-06 sent out a strong message: that elected representatives have to be careful in performing their duties and no misconduct would be tolerated. “There were cases pertaining to the office of profit, the cash for query scandal, misappropriation of MPLAD fund. Yet, Parliament's decision to punish its members caught on camera gave a clear message that MPs are not above law. It brought Parliament back to public esteem," Malhotra said.